press release

Ann Veronica Janssens - HOT PINK TURQUOISE 23 January – 17 May 2020

The year 2020 at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art begins with a presentation of Belgium’s greatest living artist, Ann Veronica Janssens. During the darkest months of the year the public will have access to works in which the light is the bearing element. The exhibition HOT PINK TURQUOISE takes over the South Wing of the Museum, giving Janssens her first major exhibition in Scandinavia.

Over the last few years, many visitors to Louisiana have paused in front of a mesmerizing gleam of gold in the surface of an aquarium. On scrutiny, they have realized that the artist is playing with our sensory perception, such that we do not quite understand how what we see has been produced. The artist is Belgian Ann Veronica Janssens (b. 1956), and this jewel of contemporary art could be more well known. Janssens’ art is fundamentally experimental in character, but unlike the experiments of science, nothing is to be proven by the artist or in the art. Janssens unleashes what we do not already know.

Janssens’ work stands quite unequivocally on the shoulders of artists who attempted in the post-war years to deconstruct the monumental character of sculpture – that is, the European tradition from Constructivism to Op Art, and not least the American ‘optical minimalism’ arising in California in the 1960s and which in the history of art goes under the name ‘Light & Space’. Parallel Janssens’ originality has left clear traces in contemporary art.

Janssens’ works range wide, but they can all be described as sculptures that use the space as a stage for sensory activity. The simple white architecture of Louisiana’s South Wing becomes a resonating surface for Janssens’ both fragile and dizzying art – fragile because the works and their components are very simple while their effect elevates them above the material. Janssens herself often uses the word ‘fluid’ to describe the effect of her works – even for example when they consist of a 6.5 metre long iron girder polished at the top so the room is reflected and it is hard to fix your gaze on the object. Janssens seeks no control of either works or viewers, for as the Dutch theorist Mieke Bal has said, Janssens’ artworks are at one and the same time object and event.

Many of the works in the exhibition can evoke the sensation of standing at the threshold of something. They stress transitions and transformations between on the one hand a material level – evoked by glass, colour, liquids and not least light – and on the other hand a dynamic experience of time and space. This may sound abstract, but the exhibition is in many ways one long but concrete and bodily experience of how, by looking more closely at something, walking around and into a familiar material world, we activate a curiosity and an attention to ourselves – a potential we can even take with us when leaving the exhibition.

Mist suffused with colour Time, space and light as coloured substance are quite concrete in one of Janssens’ major works, the large installation Blue, Red and Yellow from 2001. As if entering a hothouse you walk into a faint drifting mist suffused with three colours, and body and brain in combination, while challenged, enable us to experience things very intensely. Conversely, with her shiny, reflecting bicycles elsewhere in the exhibition, Janssens gives us the opportunity to reach out for the familiar and experience body and museum in an unusual and dynamic combination. Both works bear within them an emancipation. Janssens has no decided agendas – neither climate, gender nor cultural crisis.

The exhibition includes works from the early 1990s until the present, with a new work created specifically for the observation room at the end of Louisiana’s South Wing – at the point where one turns from the art and lets one’s gaze range over the landscape outside and the Øresund beyond. Janssens adds a work to the architecture, but what is it we actually see? Is it artificial or natural? Our horizon is widened – that much is certain.

A cinema in the exhibition shows films where Janssens, in a dialogue with two Danish physicists, conveys a shared preoccupation with quite fundamental concepts in physics such as light, liquid and optical phenomena. The two physicists are Professor Kristine Niss (MSO), RUC, and Troels Petersen, Associate Professor of experimental subatomic physics at the Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University. The short films have been shot in the artist’s studio in Brussels and at Louisiana.

The exhibition is supported by the Danish Research Foundation, Lektor Peer Rander Amundsens Legat and Wallonie-Bruxelles International.

The exhibition will be shown later in the year at South London Gallery in a slightly modified form, as a collaboration between the two institutions.

Curator of the exhibition: Anders Kold.

Catalogue: In connection with the exhibition a catalogue in English (176 pages) is being published which places Janssens’ art historically, gives a general view of the oeuvre and lets the artist have her say in a dialogue, while each of a group of shorter texts deals with an individual work. The texts are by Anders Kold, Matthieu Poirier, Elizabeth Gollnick, Darren Almond, Mieke Bal, Lise Skytte Jacobsen and Catherine de Zegher and includes a dialogue between Ann Veronica Janssens and Margot Heller.

Films: A series of short films has been produced on Ann Veronica Janssens and her work. The films will be shown in the exhibition.